We all get angry sometimes. It is a natural reaction to events that lead us to believe that we deserve better or someone has wronged us and we feel that they absolutely must not do that to us as it is not fair and undeserved. But what is anger?
“Chances are good that if you do have a problem with anger, you already know it. If you find yourself acting in ways that seem out of control and frightening, you might need help finding better ways to deal with this emotion.” — The American Psychological Association.
Anger can be caused by internal and external events. These events are usually seen as out of our control. I invite you to take responsibility for your emotions and particularly anger. People often say things like, “what he did made me furious!” or “that person really winds me up!”.
What does this tell us? What can we learn from this typical response to things that make us angry? What we can see is that people often place the blame at someone else’s door. It makes sense, after-all, we haven’t done anything to deserve being treated in a way that makes us feel angry. That is why we get angry. We feel helpless to it. After-all, we can’t control the other person. And so we end up resigned to the fact that we have to live with other peoples actions or words and the feelings they provoke in us.
What if I told you that this needn’t be the case. What if I told you that you, that’s right you, have the power to control how you feel. Right now, you can stop feeling angry or furious. And you can do it again whenever you feel helpless to how others are making you feel. All of us have the ability to take responsibility for our own emotions. That sounds like a nice sentence but what does it mean in practical terms? The key to a healthy emotional state is controlling our own emotions.
I make myself angry, and you make yourself angry too. Own it. Take responsibility for it. That is the first step to a healthy emotional state of being. When you accept this, the notion of you making yourself angry, you can then start to cultivate a healthy mental and emotional state of being. I’m not suggesting that you never allow yourself to feel angry ever again. That would be unhealthy. You see, there are healthy and unhealthy emotions and we need to recognise them when they occur and react appropriately. I used to find myself screaming at the television. Usually whenever a soap opera was on. Soap opera’s thrive on conflict, and there is a very large dose of it everyday on TV. I learnt to accept the reality that I could do nothing to change all the conflict on TV. I wasn’t happy about it, but I wasn’t angry anymore. Instead I felt calm, so too can you, if you begin practising emotional responsibility. That was an example of unhealthy anger. Allowing small things to effect our mood strongly.
What if you’d placed your trust in someone, who you consider a close friend of colleague. The front door key to your house while you were away on holiday. They said they were more than happy to feed the cats while you were away. But you got back from holiday to find your cat’s malnourished and their food bowls empty for what was probably a good few days. Should you feel angry? Yes you should. Someone abusing your trust is a deplorable way to behave and so you have every right to be angry with that person.
I hope I have made it clear the difference between healthy and unhealthy anger. It’s important not to prevent yourself from feeling healthy anger in a situation that many would expect to feel a certain amount of healthy anger. Don’t forget: unhealthy anger can be controlled by exercising emotional responsibility and will help you identify triggers that cause you to feel unhealthy angry.
By Ray Stone
Anger Management Classes available 7 days a week in Houston, Texas.
Gregory A. Kyles, M.A., LPC, CEAP, CAMF
Director, Anger Management Institute of Texas
Diplomate, President of Texas Chapter
American Association of Anger Management Providers